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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  February 2, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm PST

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cotton called them personally, apologized for the cancelled meeting, and said he will hold an in person town hall event this month. the pressure got them that far. town hall events have been touch and go for lawmakers recently in both parties. but we might be getting a new one on the schedule soon from senator cotton thanks to his constituents who would not give up. and a local press who covered their efforts. who wants to go next? that does it for us tonight. we'll see you again tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." >> rachel, i'm officially inviting senator cotton to have a town hall right here at 10:00 p.m., any night he wants, i will go anywhere. >> i will bring pizza. >> you know how when you look at someone you can tell what kind of motorcycle they drive? looking at you, i might as well be looking at pictures of your dirt bike and you flying over all those hills in california where you grew up.
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>> sure. >> when you look at me, rachel, what motorcycle do you see? >> i'm expecting something elegant. the bmw where the cylinders go at each other this way instead of -- >> oh, rachel, i dream about bmw motorcycles. my problem with them was aesthetic. i was at first a british motorcycle rider. >> like a triumph guy? >> a norton. and a bsa, which is a cousin of triumph. and then i became a harley driver. and in that beautiful story, rachel, is the story of international trade and how it works in america and what donald trump was talking about today when he was talking to the harley-davidson executives. >> go get 'em, lawrence. >> in telling that story, it's going to require of course pictures of my harleys. >> that is freaking awesome. that's amazing. go on get 'em, man. >> thanks, rachel. >> thank you. in this hour you'll hear
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howard stern tell you that the presidency is not good for donald trump's health. and he will tell you why. and this is someone who knows donald trump well. but first, the most chaotic white house in history is now setting a record in its first two weeks for leaks. >> when you hear about the tough phone calls i'm having, don't worry about it. just don't worry about it. >> australia is a very essential ally. >> they are one of our most valued partners. >> they fought alongside us in wars. >> we have to be tough. it's time for us to be tough, folks. >> hi. i'm the new guy. we apologize for being late. it seemed that this year's prayer breakfast, people felt the need to pray a little longer. [ laughter ] >> they hired a big, big movie star, arnold schwarzenegger, to take my place. and we know how that turned out. >> god, you may want to
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intervene here. >> i want to just pray for arnold, if we can, for those ratings. >> i'm not worried about arnold's ratings. i'm worried about what are we going to do about iran. >> i'm in favor of additional sanctions against iran. >> nothing is off the table. >> reporter: officials in the u.s. military raising major concerns over president trump's hastily approved ground strike in yemen. >> he doesn't make executions like that glibly. >> he did make the call at dinner, right? >> i can't reveal where he made the call. president trump's enemies within the administration continue an unprecedented level of leaking for a presidency that is not yet two weeks old. there are new leaks tonight about the president's role in launching a mission in yemen in which u.s. navy s.e.a.l. william owens became the first american killed in yemen. reuters reports u.s. military officials told reuters that
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trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations. as a result, three officials said the attacking s.e.a.l. team found itself dropping into an area of heavily armed islamist extremists. u.s. central command said in a statement that a team is investigating civilian casualties that occurred in that incident. other leaks indicate the president was at dinner when he made the decision to approve the raid. even kellyanne conway would not deny that tonight. >> so that account in the paper today that had his son-in-law there, and he had steve bannon there -- >> that's a dinner. that's not an execution of a plan. that is one instance, that is one event where he received the counsel of different people. there were other people around
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the table including his secretaries and generals. >> so he did make the call at dinner, right? >> i can't reveal where he made the call. as commander in chief he takes the job very seriously and executes on that as appropriate. >> all of this leaking comes the day after the administration leaked excerpts of donald trump's combative phone calls with the prime minister of australia and the president of mexico, two of our closest allies. donald trump decided this morning that the national prayer breakfast was the perfect place to say something about that. >> when you hear about the tough phone calls i'm having, don't worry about it. just don't worry about it. they're tough. we have to be tough. it's time we're going to be a little tough, folks. we're taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. it's not going to happen anymore. it's not going to happen anymore. >> today john mccain released this statement in response to the president's phone call with the australian prime minister. "i called australia's ambassador
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to the united states to express my unwavering support for the u.s.-australia alliance. i asked ambassador hockey to convey to the people of australia that their american brothers and sisters our historic alliance, honor the sacrifice of the australians who have served and are serving by our side." this afternoon a white house official confirmed to nbc news that australia's ambassador to the u.s. met with steve bannon and reince priebus at the white house. politico reports that the stream of leaks from the white house and federal agencies stems from the fact that, quote, a feeling of distrust has taken hold in the west wing of donald trump's white house and beyond as his aides view each other and officials across the federal government and on capitol hill with suspicion. joining us know, john heilemann,
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co-author of "game change" and the executive producer of the documentary "trumped," premiering tomorrow night. and eli stokols. eli, we've seen, of course, white house leaking before. we've never seen it this fast. i can't think of a significant leak that came out of a white house in its first two weeks. this is nothing like anything we've seen before. >> no, and i mean, it's downright nixonian. the competing power centers in the campaign is something that he's always been sort of a part of his managerial style. we're seeing it now in the white house. the problem now of course is that the consequences are far greater than just, you know, what matters to his political campaign. the entire country is invested in this. behind that you have this broader sort of intrinsic
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disregard for experts and for institutional knowledge. you see that with trump putting his loyalist political appointees on the national security council. you see it when they sort of reject the input of a person at the state department who has studied the holocaust, they don't want their input when they're putting out a statement for holocaust remembrance day. it's big things and little things. this is an administration that controls things very tightly. the executive order on vetting on friday, even in the west wing there were a lot of people that didn't know it was coming. they held that close to the vest because they were trying to prevent the leaks. the problem there is that people in the federal government, whether they were lawyers who needed to make sure that the thing held muster legally or whether they were people at the agencies who were going to be implementing this thing, they hadn't seen it. widespread dysfunction we've seen from the west wing in the first two weeks. >> let's listen to kellyanne conway insisting that none of
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these leaks are coming from the trump team. >> obviously we're not commenting on private conversations in that way. we give a readout to the media on most conversations. but we don't release transcripts and certainly don't mischaracterize them as some have. we're not leaking. >> so who is leaking? >> well -- >> now, let me say, you have lived very well from leaks. >> i've received a few. >> you've got some books that kind of based -- what's interesting about "game change" is these were people who were leaking to you temporarily, in that you were writing the book during the campaign. they were telling you things during the campaign that they would never have told you if you were publishing during the campaign. your guarantee was this will be published after the campaign, when they probably would have been willing to talk to you. but getting people to talk, that technique of getting the leak is what you are a master of. so john, the master, what's going on here?
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>> i think one of the key things to understanding what the psychology is of the leakers, part of problem that trump is suffering from is there are a variety of people with different kinds of motivations to want to leak. one set of people, and i think there's a large group of these, especially people like kellyanne conway, i'm not accusing her of leaking, but the way to temper trump's behavior, the way to get him to understand a point, is if he sees it on television. >> she has essentially said that publicly. >> yes, she has. again, not accusing her of leaking. but saying others around him know that if you want to get through to him, you don't write him a memo, you don't try to talk to him about it. you try to get people on television to try to talk about him. so there are those leaking who are trying to get his behavior to be better. others, people who are more institutionally aligned, people who are part of the washington establishment who are now in the administration, people who are maybe part of the permanent government who are alarmed by trump's behavior, they're not speaking to trump.
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they're speaking to the outside world and trying to make it clear to everyone in america and democrats and other republicans and all of us, just how alarming some of the behavior that they see is, at least in their eyes. and when you are caught in that crossfire, you have people leaking who think they're trying to help you and people leaking to hurt you, that is a bad place to be. and you know the one thing that's going on right now, it is making donald trump mental right now. mental. >> yes. because he's the control freak, obviously. all presidents want this control. and his is out of control. i want to go to one of the issues that has been leaked about, which is this phone call to the prime minister of australia. and let's listen to what donald trump said about that today. >> i have a lot of respect for australia. i love australia as a country. but we had a problem where for whatever reason, president obama said that they were going to take probably well over a thousand illegal immigrants who were in prisons.
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and they were going to bring them and take them into this country. i just said, why? a previous administration does something, you have to respect that. but you can also say, why are we doing this? that's why we're in the jams we're in. >> eli, a stunning statement. for one thing, he's finally gotten the number down to what it really is, which is down around 1200, he has been saying over 2,000, so someone got him to say the right thing. but then it's outright lies, the notion that refugees are illegal immigrants, the notion that they're in prisons. australia is holding them on these islands, trying to figure out what to do with them. australia would like a little help from other countries like the united states, which is a reasonable thing to ask for. and that's why this deal was done. and also, the executive order on immigration includes a provision for this exact deal. and here's donald trump, who signed that order, pretending he didn't know anything about it. he signed an executive order that incorporated it.
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>> well, the contradictions come pretty quick with this administration. so you have to be ready for those. and i think, you know, nobody is shocked at this point after some of the other threats he's made to other foreign leaders in the first two weeks. i mean, it's shocking that he would pick a fight seemingly with australia, one of the country's closest allies, going back decades. but this is donald trump. he's unpredictable. this melodrama is sort of reminiscent of what he staged throughout the campaign. instead of megyn kelly, you have australia, one of our closest allies. you have the feud, then the makeup session, today the australian ambassador is at the white house, people are sort of hysterical. steve bannon believes these sort of media freakouts, the constant hysteria, has the effect of numbing the public to what they're doing and sort of -- people get uncalibrated, where they can't tell anymore whether
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it's a scandal that really matters or whether it's just the sort of melodrama of the day. and i think even if this looks crazy to a lot of us who observe this and have never seen anything like this before, some of the dysfunction and the chaos coming from the white house may in fact be by design. >> and john, there's a fascinating thing that's helped in white house damage control that you now see senator mccain, elliott engel, the house of representatives, leading democrat on the foreign relations committee, they are doing damage contr for america. >> yes. >> with foreign countries. >> yes. >> the president says something crazy about australia or about mexico, and there's john mccain calling the ambassador, elliott engel did the same thing, called the ambassador of australia saying, please don't hold this against us. and no doubt making some private comments about, we've got a crazy man in the white house, don't listen to him. >> more than that, not just trying to apologize on america's behalf.
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mccain is speaking for america. he's saying, please tell australians that american and americans are still on their side. he's basically acting like a proxy president. there's really supposed to be one person in our system of government who speaks for the american people to foreign entities, and that is the president of the united states, not a senior senator from the republican party. i have to pause on this australia and the mexican president's leak, the australian prime minister's leak. i've never seen anything like that in more than 25 years covering national politics. the number of people with access to those calls and access to transcripts of those calls is very small. so when kellyanne conway says no one inside the white house, no one in the west wing is doing this, that's just wrong. she may not know who the person is who's doing it but there are not a lot of people outside the west wing with access to those phone calls, who sees transcripts of them. those people fall into that first category, people who are genuinely saying the only way to
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get trump to tone this down is if we embarrass him to the press. and man, we're not two weeks in, and that's where we are. >> john heilemann, who knows a thing or two about trafficking in leaks. eli stokols, thanks for joining us tonight. coming up, new questions about the military raid in yemen. joe biden's national security adviser will join us. and a special personal rewrite about what donald trump got wrong about harley-davidson today. and of course, to make that point, i'm just going to have to show you pictures of my harleys.
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protests against president trump's policies continue around the country, including this one in brooklyn, new york. hundreds of business owners shut down their delis, grocery stores, and bodegas to protest president trump's travel plan. one protesters said he closed his deli because his wife and baby are stuck in yemen after almost completing a four-year
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process to get a green card. up next, the controversy around donald trump's first military order. joe biden's national security adviser will join us. my business was built with passion... but i keep it growing by making every dollar count. that's why i have the spark cash card from capital one. with it, i earn unlimited 2% cash back on all of my purchasing. and that unlimited 2% cash back from spark means thousands of dollars each year going back into my business...
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with respect to that operation. and then, again, weighing the consequences, listening to the recommendations, the intelligence, and then ultimately executing on it. it was a very successful operation. >> white house press secretary sean spicer defended the mission by saying the plan was developed by the obama administration. >> on november 7th, centcom submitted the plan to dod, clearly that was under the last administration. legal teams were involved immediately when it was submitted to dod. on december 19th, the plan was approved by the department of defense and recommended that it be moved ahead. >> joining us now, colin call, former national security adviser to vice president joe biden. mr. karl, what is your understanding about how this mission was first discussed in the obama administration and how you saw it proceed to execution?
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>> a number of weeks before the end of the obama administration, the pentagon came forward with a proposal that we looked at in what we call the interagency, the various agencies and departments, up to the deputy's level. it wasn't for any particular raid. it was for an expanded set of authorities to allow raids like this to happen. we made the recommendation that we not go forward with this but instead leave it and defer it to the next administration so they could do a careful review. the president agreed with that recommendation and basically said that the trump team should take a careful look at this because this was a major escalation that could have significanrisks involved. so they had to carefully vet this option before moving forward. this particular raid never came before the previous president of the united states. >> what's your reading of the administration's reaction to what has been publicly revealed so far about how this decision was made? >> well, i mean, obviously the raid didn't go as planned. we had a navy s.e.a.l. killed. there were civilians caught in the crossfire.
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our military demonstrates incredible professionalism and care but things sometimes go wrong, which is why you have to have a deliberate process leading up to this. my understanding based on what i've read and heard from folks still in the government is that in essence general mattis and the new secretary of defense and general dumford briefed president trump over dinner on this on wednesday and it was approved without any interagency process. with the consequence that it probably wasn't vetted with the care it deserved. >> tell us what would be missing without the so-called interagency process. >> so usually this happens at different levels. first at like the assistant secretary level then at the deputy secretary level then at the cabinet level. then it goes to the president. at each level, the questions are
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asked, is the intelligence good enough, do we understand who is present there, what are the risks to civilians, what's the potential political blowback or the blowback in the region. this thing gets vetted not just by the pentagon, who is great at what they do, but they don't have all the information and can't necessarily see all the angles. so the state department matters, the intelligence community matters. and having the conversation oftentimes surfaces concerns. and that conversation does not appear to have happened in this instance. >> colin karl, thank you very much for joining us, i really appreciate it. >> thank you. coming up, the president was forced to meet with the leaders of harley-davidson at the white wisconsin with a big rally audience, because the white house was afraid more protesters would show up in wisconsin than supporters. ♪ audi pilotless vehicles have conquered highways, mountains, and racetracks. and now much of that same advanced technology is found in the audi a4.
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i was blessed to be raised in a churched home. >> a churched home? he was reading a teleprompter. does that mean someone wrote "a churched home" in the teleprompter? maybe that means there was a church in his home. our first 33 presidents managed to do their jobs and serve the country without ever attending a national prayer breakfast. then at the dawn of the television age, the president's handlers decided this seemed the perfect place to go to do a little pandering that could be
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captured on tv cameras and maybe convince some religious people that the president was religious. so dwight eisenhower was the first president to attend the national prayer breakfast service. and every president since has followed in his footsteps. a collection of speeches from the national prayer breakfast is a collection of some of the worst speeches given by american presidents. and now we have a clear winner for worst presidential speech ever given at the national prayer breakfast, delivered by the man who says he was raised in a churched home. >> thank you as well to senate chaplain barry black for his moving words. i don't know, chaplain, whether or not that's an appointed position. is that an appointed position? i don't even know if you're a democrat or a republican. but i'm appointing you for another year, the hell with it. >> his handlers forgot to tell him, don't say "the hell with it." a minimally polite atheist would
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not have stood up there and said "the hell with it." mark burnett is the owner/operator of the tv show that donald trump starred in. he is therefore the custodian of all the video recorded for that show that was never seen on that show, video rumored to contain some pretty horrible things said by donald trump. and thanks to mark burnett, none of that video has ever been seen. and so of course the president of the united states is very, very grateful to mark burnett. >> we had tremendous success on "the apprentice." and when i ran for president, i had to leave the show. that's when i knew for sure i was doing it. and they hired a big, big movie star, arnold schwarzenegger, to take my place. and we know how that turned out. the ratings went right down the tubes. it's been a total disaster. and mark will never, ever bet against trump again.
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and i want to just pray for arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay? >> of course the president of the united states is still an executive producer of that tv show. and he knows that any time he mentions that tv show, positively or negatively, it's brand awareness for that show. he's very good at making senator lindsey graham uncomfortable. and his ridiculous comments about praying for ratings today did it again. >> the bottom line is, he's new at the job. that made me feel uncomfortable. i'm not worried about arnold's ratings. i'm not thinking about his old show. i'm worried about what are we going to do about iran. >> the president would of course prefer us to talk about his silliness at the prayer breakfast or arnold schwarzenegger's ratings. but senator graham is right. we should be talking about iran. tonight, two u.s. officials confirmed to nbc news that the
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u.s. could impose new sanctions on iran as early as tomorrow in response to iran's recent ballistic missile tests. when asked if military action is off the table in iran, the president said this. >> honestly, nothing is off the table. i haven't eased anything. >> phyllis benes, the author of "understanding the u.s.-iran crisis," will join us next. i would support the idea of new sanction but they should come through congress. the best way to do this is not executive action, in my view. it is to call up members of
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that's your underwearstrong, dude.cleaner. so clean...keeps you could wear them a second day. charmin ultra strong. it's 4 times stronger, and you can use less enjoy the go with charmin. i would support the idea of new sanction but they should come through congress. the best way to do this is not executive action, in my view. it is to call up members of congress on both sides of it aisle and say now is the time to move. but i like the idea that they're going to push back. >> joining the discussion, phyllis bennis, the author of "understanding the u.s.-iran crisis."
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phyllis, an interesting situation we are now poised with here because of these ballistic missile tests, senator graham saying let's take up the issue of sanctions in the congress. the president's white house indicating they might just do something by executive order. >> we're hearing some very reckless threats coming out particularly from the white house. we're hearing not only the possibility of sanctions but very overtly saying that the possibility of military force is not off the table, everything is on the table, being emphasized again. and this is certainly not helpful. there has been no claim by either the white house or anyone in congress that the missile tests violated the iran nuclear deal. and the notion that somehoany move by iran that the u.s. can respond with these kind of ratcheting up pressures is making the situation in the region as a whole far worse. it's even more dangerous because we're hearing these threats of military force. and this is not something to
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take lightly. when you have the president tweeting at 3:00 in the morning or whatever it was that iran is on notice in big capital letters, and with an unspecified threat, it raises the stakes very high. and this president is not one who is known for walking that back. so i think that we have to be very, very cautious. i don't think there will be a military strike from the u.s. on iran. but i think the possibility is very real that we may see an escalation in yemen, which would be viewed as a kind of proxy attack on iran, because of what is claimed to be iran's major support of the huthi rebels in yemen. it's a disastrous situation and it could get worse. >> the first attempt at possible escalation sadly did not go well. but phyllis, this white house
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does seem to think in the iran deal somewhere it says that iran cannot do any kind of ballistic missile testing, they don't seem to understand what's actually in that deal. and further, i would like to get your sense of how iran sees this new white house. >> you know, i don't think any governments around the world, including in tehran, have a full understanding of where this government is going to place itself, where it's going to position itself in global terms. is it going to be interventionist all around the world? is it going to be isolationist in some arenas and interventionist in others? the iranians more than most are in a position to know how this administration is acting towards them. and it's a very threatening mode. whatever someone in the white house may be telling the president, that this is a violation of the nuclear agreement, it isn't.
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there is nothing in the nuclear agreement about conventional weapons testing, which is what this was. so that notion simply isn't going to fly. and this agreement, we have to remember, is not simply between the u.s. and iran. it's between six different countries. five of the other countries that are allies of the u.s. negotiated with the u.s. with iran. and in that context, it's not something that the u.s. can simply say, well, our definition is we think this is included, when every other country agrees that it's not. the danger again, i think, goes directly to using the possibility of using yemen as a proxy for attacking iran at a time when 80% of the population of=-! yemen is food-insecure, basically doesn't know what they will feed their children tomorrow. massive amounts of malnutrition, people dying of famine conditions. the humanitarian conditions for food is one of the worst in the
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world right now. and the possibility of an escalation that would continue the closing of the ports which the saudi bombing backed by the united states has already happened, that's going to get worse. so i think we're in a very dangerous moment. iran may well treat that as an attack aimed at iran. but it will be the yemeni population that suffers. >> phyllis bennis, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you. coming up, an important lesson on international trade and tariffs in the american motorcycle industry, which of course will be illustrated by photographs of pretty much all of my motorcycles. sir! what's the status? there's a meteor hurtling towards earth. how long until impact? less than a minute. what do you want to do, sir? listen carefully...
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something that -- it's going to be very detrimental to his mental health too, because he wants to be liked. he wants to be loved. he wants people to cheer for him. >> if donald trump needs people to cheer for him to stay healthy, he's in big trouble. he's now trapped in the white house, afraid to venture out to those adoring crowds. the white house cancelled a trip to the harley-davidson office because they feared protesters. instead, harley-davidson came to the roosevelt room this morning. >> in the 1980s, and i remember this, you were victims of trading abuse, big trading abuse, where they were dumping all sorts of competitors all over the place.
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and ronald reagan stepped in and he put on large tariffs. and you wouldn't be talking about harley-davidson right now if he didn't do that. >> there's donald trump telling harley-davidson executives a lie about their country's history. they know they didn't get in trouble in the 1980s because of dumping by japanese motorcycle manufacturers. dumping is when a company sells a product for less than it costs to manufacture it. the president rewrote harley-davidson's story to fit his false narratives about international trade. here is the truth of what happened to harley-davidson. beginning at the beginning. william harley and arthur davidson were childhood friends who work for a couple of years to build a motorcycle in milwaukee. their first design couldn't quite make it up hills. in 1906, they built their first factory. by 1920, harley-davidson was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. by the 1980s, harley-davidson
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was the only motorcycle manufacturer left in the united states. most of the competition was pouring into the united states from japan. germany and the united kingdom were also significant exporters of motorcycles to the united states. harley-davidson sales were suffering not because the foreign competition was cheating, but because harley-davidson's machines were not as good as the imported machines. harley-davidson was making the worst motorcycle in the world. i preferred english motorcycles myself in those days. my first was this bsa. that was when i was in college. my second was a norton. and then i totalled that beautiful norton in a high speed accident and stayed away from motorcycles for a few years. and then when i went shopping for a motorcycle again, i looked at all the japanese bikes, the british bikes, the german bikes. then for the heck of it i stopped by the harley-davidson dealer in cape cod and never
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thought about foreign motorcycles again. the first was the sportster. i traded that in for a heritage softel. of course i got rid of that bulky windshield and the saddle bags. i don't like all that junk on a motorcycle. the reason i switched to harley is that they finally figured out how to make a motorcycle. when i was buying british bikes, brand-new harley-davidsons couldn't stop leaking oil. you had to be a mechanic to own a harley-davidson, to even get one started. the temporary tariff that ronald reagan imposed on japanese motorcycles gave harley-davidson the breathg room to figure out how to make a better motorcycle, which they did by going to jan and visiting japanese motorcycle factories, studying how the japanese did it. the competition from international competitors to harley-davidson made harley-davidson motorcycles better, much better.
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my first harley spent the winters as the most beautiful ornament in my living room, parked right beside my sofa in my manhattan apartment without ever dripping a drop of oil. i convinced friends of mine who had only ridden japanese bikes to buy harleys. harley-davidson requested that the protective five-year tariff be removed a year early because harley didn't need it anymore. after the tariff was removed, harley's ceo actually said, for years we tried to figure out why the japanese were beating us so badly. first we thought it was their culture. then we thought it was automation. then we thought it was dumping. finally we realized the problem was us, not them. they had been making a terrible product and doing it in an inefficient way. in addition to designing and building a better motorcycle, harley-davidson also cut jobs, laid off workers, streamlined the assembly line. so harley-davidson doesn't fit
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the simplistic story donald trump wants to tell you about international trade. harley-davidson became a fat and lazy american company making a terrible product because it didn't have enough competition. and so, yes. one american company was saved by one temporary tariff. and it worked because of the unique circumstances. the tariff was designed to protect only one small company. not an entire industry. that same strategy would never work for an entire industry like the american automobile industry, which has also been helped enormously by foreign competition. american cars are better tonight thanks to foreign mpion forcing them to be better. the true story of harley-davidson is not the story that donald trump wants you to hear.
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today the president said he wants to knock a big hole in the wall separating church and
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if you're gonna make an entrance... [car driving upon the water] ♪ today the president said he wants to knock a big hole in the wall separating church and state. >> i will get rid of and totally destroy the johnson amendment
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and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. i will do that. remember. freedom of religion is a sacred right. but it is also a right under threat all around us. >> the johnson amendment is of course named for lyndon johnson, which he introduced into a senate tax bill when he was a senator in 1954. that amendment bars churches and all tax exempt nonprofits from endorsing political candidates. the idea of doing away with the amendment also appears in a white house draft executive order that it says is about religious freedom. as first reported in "the nation," that draft order also proposes giving individuals and groups wide discretion in denying services, employment, and benefits on the basis of their religious beliefs. joining us now is stewart milk, president of the harvey milk
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foundation and an lgbt activist. stewart, thank you for joining us. stewart, you've seen this breast memo. it has been scaring people, it's been out a few days now. and then there's the president today at the prayer breakfast, telling an element that's in that memo and saying he definitely wants to get this done, and at the same time the white house seems to be giving signals saying, oh, no, no, don't take that memo too seriously. >> yeah, i mean, you know, we've been on what seems like a whirlwind. it seems like we've been at this now for months, and it's only been a few days. but we had the president say or the white house say that they were keeping president obama's executive order that bans discrimination on employment in
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the federal government and with contractors for the lgbt community. that's great. but at the same time, we see these executive orders, draft executive orders being circulated that basically take the hull out of that boat of protection. so the executive order that president obama put into place is really a boat of protection for the lgbt from discrimination and these executive orders would actually gut that. you would be left with a boat with sides and nothing to prevent you from drowning. don't forget, donald trump also said that ted cruz's discriminatory amendment that would allow people to -- called the fada, that he would sign that, that's also something that would gut protections for lgbt people and give people license to discriminate. and the ability to allow religious organizations to participate in the political system with their tax exempt status, you know, if you listened at the prayer breakfast, he didn't even get that big round of applause from that, because most of the religious community i don't think really want to go back to those days. they don't want to be involved
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where they may be clearinghouses for people, for billionaires and companies to avoid the checks and balances that we have in political contributions. so, you know, in many ways we're exhausted from what seems to be a ping-pong ball. and unfortunately we're not the only community, the lgbt community is not the only community that's part of that ping-pong ball. i do have to point out, lawrence, when the president says that he is going to protect the lgbt community as he did at the convention, well, let me make it perfectly clear that if you attack refugees, then you are attacking the lgbt community. if you're attacking the muslim community, you're attacking lgbt people.
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if you're taking away rights of women, you are attacking lgbt people. if you're attacking people of color, you are attacking lgbt people. this divide and conquer, this whirlwind that we're on, has just got to stop. and people have to be able to rise up and say enough. i think we're all exhausted from this carousel that we've been on. and, you know, if these things like draft executive orders don't have any weight, then someone's got to come out there and stop it. someone's got to close the door on these type of things that are coming from the white house. and we've got to be able to shut down things like fada, the ted cruz amendment. hopefully there will be enough republicans who will realize this is legalized state sanctied discrimination. >> let's listen to what sean spicer said about this today. >> people should be able to practice their religion, express their religion, express areas of their faith without reprisal.
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i think that pendulum sometimes swings the other way in the name of political correctness. there's clearly a lot of evidence in the last couple of years of the government coming in with regulations and policies that have frankly denied people the ability to live according to their faith. >> stuart, what did you hear in that answer? >> you know, again, this is the ringer. i mean, what he's basically saying is that we're going to support some form of discrimination and call it religious liberty. and it's actually antithetical to liberty, to be -- you know, it's double talk and, you know, it's an attack on the -- on what our country is built on, which is our liberty and our individual pursuit of happiness. it's really the current way of attacking our freedom. >> stuart milk gets tonight's
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last word. thank you, stuart. >> thank you, lawrence. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. tonight, parts of the world on edge as a flurry of headlines reveal a chaotic u.s. foreign policy just how do world leaders deal with the president trump? power of the people, congressional offices flooded with phone calls as americans speak out against the president's cabinet picks, jamming the phone lines on capitol hill. and did the president really just talk about television ratings at the national prayer breakfast? the highly rated "11th hour" begins now. and good evening, once again, from our headquarters in new york. a lot of fast-moving story in the world of foreign policy, especially tonight on iran after the white house put the islamic nation on notice. nbc news confirmed they could hit iran with new sanctions within hours.

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